The Significance of Iko Uwais in ‘Wu Assassins’

For two weeks already, the fantasy-crime-martial arts series, Wu Assassins, has been streaming on Netflix. Centered in modern day San Francisco Chinatown, it follows a chef who finds out he is the last Wu Assassin; the one whose destined to stop the five Wu Warlords from obtaining the powers of Wu Xing and using them to destroy the world.

The show already bears so much significance. It is the first Netflix show starring a predominantly Asian cast, and just from the first season alone, it doesn’t hold back on the nuances that make up Asian America and its history (if you’ve seen Episode 7 in particular, then you know what’s up). However, another unique quality about this show is in the role of the Wu Assassin himself. Iko Uwais, an Indonesian actor best known for his role in The Raid, is this story’s chosen one.

There’s satisfaction in seeing a Southeast Asian as the lead for this series. While representation of Asians and Asian Americans in the media have improved significantly over the last few years, a majority of the projects have been mainly centered around East Asians. From TV shows like Fresh Off the Boat and Dr. Ken, to films like Crazy Rich Asians and The Farewell, it’s hard to ignore how a significant portion of the Asian demographic still hasn’t had as much time in the spotlight. While Wu Assassins, admittedly, stars a predominantly East Asian cast, having a Southeast Asian lead is still a good place to start.

This is a detail about Wu Assassins I personally haven’t seen acknowledged, but I believe in order to better improve the representation of Asians onscreen, victories like this should be. When the world is facing utter destruction, all the other characters are looking to Chinese-Indonesian Kai Jin to lead the way to saving it.

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